With nearly 8 million Americans employed in construction, there’s no sign that workers who should have been most affected by the rapid slowdown in new housing projects are taking a break.
Jobs in the residential construction component of the sector peaked in January at 935,800. This has since cooled a bit but only by around 6,000 people, coming down to 929,900 in April.
Meanwhile, there’s a hint within the labor data that workers who lost jobs in the slowdown just moved on to work on constructing other types of buildings, as the number of employed Americans in the residential specialty contractor space moved up by 6,000 in April.
With a slight rebound in both housing starts and construction spending, there’s a chance that this sector will never see the kind of layoffs that economists had expected from the contraction in the housing market, said George Pearkes, an investment analyst at Bespoke Investment Group.
Higher interest rates for mortgages don’t seem to be hurting construction jobs
“The actual production of new places to live doesn’t appear to have slowed that much given the size of the move of mortgage rates,” Pearkes said. “It’s a really good sign that the housing market can return to sort of more normalcy over the course of this year and next even if rates don’t come down dramatically.”
These increases stand in stark contrast to the housing contraction of 2007, when the construction sector shed more than 700,000 jobs.
Leasing agents and realtors may be having a tougher time given the decline in home sales volume, noted Skanda Amarnath, executive director of Employ America, a labor advocacy group. Yet, even the number of real estate workers in leasing and rentals were at an all-time high at 2.42 million employed in April, despite declines in the rental market.